Sure, that sounds good… but what about math?

 “When you start talking about authentic instruction and assessment, the math teachers in the room stop listening.” Not true for all math teachers, I know. But one math teacher pulled me aside after a recent workshop to share this observation. Math teachers — especially those teaching higher level courses like trigonometry and calculus — know their…

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AP can be about more than just tests

At the end of one of my design thinking workshops this fall, a participant said she found it strange that I present workshops to promote divergent thinking and classroom innovation, then turn around and present AP workshops for the College Board. She asked: Isn’t this kind of teaching exactly the opposite of what AP requires?…

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Just tell me what to do, please

Two years ago, when I was deep into the writing/editing phase of my book, Beat Boredom, I received a very disheartening email from my editor. She said, basically: This isn’t what we want. Try again. You can image the emotional turbulence. I was frustrated. And angry. And exhausted.   And I wanted to respond: But…

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‘I don’t know this word’… Why student knowledge and context matter

My friend Mary, a bookseller in Chicago, told me I need to read Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover. Westover was was raised by American survivalists, and her story explains how she broke with her family’s extremist ideology and left home to seek her education, culminating in a Ph.D. from Cambridge. The part that stuck…

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Why a brand-new master schedule isn’t the solution

Note to readers: I try to post every week, but a summer full of PD workshops has turned out to be busier than the school year! I hope you’re having a restful July.  In the past few weeks leading AP summer institutes for Macro/Micro teachers, I’ve had a lot of discussions about the “school day.”…

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What do we do when students don’t know seemingly everyday words?

When is the last time you encountered words (in English) that you didn’t know? How did it impact your understanding? How did it make you feel? I encounter unfamiliar words once in a while, but I honestly can’t recall a recent example. The last time I was truly stymied by vocabulary was my sophomore year…

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Why I actually like AP season

There are a lot of reasons people hate the AP (Advanced Placement) program. To start with, the stress of AP testing season, which is upon us. Then the fact that some colleges no longer give credit for passing AP tests, so it feels like wasted money. Some people hate AP because they don’t believe high…

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Moving to PBL is a challenging (but worthy) task for teachers

Changing the way we teach is hard. At times, almost overwhelmingly hard. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I was invited to sit in with a terrific group of New Richmond, Wisconsin, teachers who are using my book (Beat Boredom) for a book study. The 20 teachers in the book study are meeting for…

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New grading schemes seem logical, but do they improve student learning?

I have one question for anyone promoting an overhaul of their high school grading system: How will it impact your students’ mindset, motivation, and learning? OK, maybe that’s three questions wrapped in one. But I feel like these are questions nobody is asking, and I want answers. If we’re investing time, money and teacher energy…

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We have so much to learn

What did you read over break? As usual I plowed through a few fun books, like Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. But I also set aside time for a few “good” books — you know, the ones that require a little more…

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